It's a question of loyalty - above all, loyalty to oneself

The Agreeable World of Wallace Arnold
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The Independent Online
I was brought up to be steadfast in adversity. That is why I joined the Conservative Party. As a youth, I had witnessed the "workers" (dread word!) scrapping among them-selves. I had compared this most unfavourably to the "all for one, one for all" spirit I had noticed among businessmen. For the young Wallace Arnold, the Conservative Party stood for loyalty to one's colleagues and loyalty to one's leader and, perhaps above all, loyalty to oneself.

And let no one tell you that the same does not apply to today's Conservatives. Subject to an unprecedented barrage of media abuse, we have pulled through as one. To take an image from the animal kingdom, we are not 300-odd vipers, wriggling hither and thither, unaware of one another. Quite the opposite. We are, and will remain, a nest of vipers, our interests and enthusiasms intertwined and self-supporting.

Contrary to what one hears in the gutter press, we will remain solidly behind the Leader of the Conservative Party, or whoever may be Leader after the long-awaited leadership contest in June/July. John Major has given the Party sterling service, and his name deserves to go down in Conservative annals. Indeed, only last week, I put a call through to Chairman Mawhinney, urging him to bring out the annals and shove Major's name down in them as soon as possible.

As a senior Conservative campaign strategist, I have obviously consulted any future party leaders over the best way of putting across the Prime Minister's message. A small group of senior colleagues - Messrs Howard, Redwood, Portillo and Dorrell among them - had begged me to point Mr Major in the right direction to ensure the desired election result. We all, I need hardly say, have the very best interests of Mr Major at heart. Far better for John and Norma and the kiddies if, after the election, they are able to make a swift departure from the pressures of office with the barest minimum of dither.

Let no one tell you that the events of the week were unplanned or "spontaneous". Far from it. Last Sunday, I took the Prime Minister to one side and gave him my eight-point strategy:

There is a danger our campaign is looking too professional, too highly polished. The public prefer a more relaxed, higgledy-piggledy approach.

With this in mind, it makes excellent sense to "muddle up" some of your replies, appearing hesitant and unsure of yourself, even petulant on occasion. Once in a while, give an appearance of making up official Party policy as you go along. This is preferable to the dull, uninteresting impression that policy is somehow "pre-arranged" and set in tablets of stone.

The viewing public can be very wary of too much unity in a party, often mistaking it for regimentation and lack of individuality. They like to see colleagues "come to blows" over the major issues with dynamism and force.

Therefore, make every effort to contradict your colleagues, particularly your Chancellor of the Exchequer and your Deputy Leader. This will also serve to eradicate any misapprehension that you do not "rule the roost".

Your Chancellor of the Exchequer has a remote, unworldly image. Help him acquire a more blokeish persona by referring to him amusingly as "Joe Bloggs". The public will love you for it.

The man in the street enjoys nothing more than watching a party leader talking straight to camera for five minutes. Abolish any "well-packaged" (!) election broadcasts in favour of a broadcast that emphasises your three main assets - your bold, eager face, your attractive, gravelly voice and your decisive spectacles.

The public is put off by complacency and smugness. They do not like to see a facial expression suggesting victory is pre-ordained. When talking on the same platform as your colleagues make sure they are briefed to look tired or sour - or, better still, in muffled disagree-ment with what you are saying. Their all-too-visible worries and fears will make them more lovable and vulnerable to the television audience. An adorable hang- dog expression on prime-time television from Dr Mawhinney is worth a million votes.

As you saw this week, The PM put this strategy into immediate operation. "If I can't trust you, Wallace," he told me, over a nice warm cup of senna pods, "then I don't know who I can trust." His colleagues are also duly grateful, each assuring me, in the strictest secrecy, of a commanding role in any Opposition Party led by them.